Insecurity in Context: The Rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria

24-07-2014

As the Boko Haram terrorist group wages war on a widening range of targets in Nigeria, the inefficiency of the country’s government has been starkly revealed – along with the urgent need for deep-cutting political and socio-economic reforms to counter a growing sense of insecurity. The north has been particularly hard-hit, with poor governance, omnipresent corruption and worsening social indicators compounding the security problem. Boko Haram, originally a peaceful Islamist movement, has moved progressively towards militant extremism since 2009, regularly attacking Nigerians and foreigners, Christians and Muslims, northerners and even residents of the capital, troops and civilians, in an effort to destabilise the state. For a number of years the group was treated as an internal Nigerian problem. However, Boko Haram’s illicit and armed activities increasingly take place across the country’s borders. When more than 200 girls were kidnapped in the town of Chibok in April 2014, it was clear that neighbouring countries and the international community would need to coordinate their efforts. In addition to launching a direct response to the security threat, the Nigerian government must address a wide range of grievances to eliminate the root causes of the insurgency in the long term. This has proved a daunting task in the past, and the issue is currently politically delicate: the country is readying itself for the 2015 presidential elections, which are expected to be fiercely contested.

As the Boko Haram terrorist group wages war on a widening range of targets in Nigeria, the inefficiency of the country’s government has been starkly revealed – along with the urgent need for deep-cutting political and socio-economic reforms to counter a growing sense of insecurity. The north has been particularly hard-hit, with poor governance, omnipresent corruption and worsening social indicators compounding the security problem. Boko Haram, originally a peaceful Islamist movement, has moved progressively towards militant extremism since 2009, regularly attacking Nigerians and foreigners, Christians and Muslims, northerners and even residents of the capital, troops and civilians, in an effort to destabilise the state. For a number of years the group was treated as an internal Nigerian problem. However, Boko Haram’s illicit and armed activities increasingly take place across the country’s borders. When more than 200 girls were kidnapped in the town of Chibok in April 2014, it was clear that neighbouring countries and the international community would need to coordinate their efforts. In addition to launching a direct response to the security threat, the Nigerian government must address a wide range of grievances to eliminate the root causes of the insurgency in the long term. This has proved a daunting task in the past, and the issue is currently politically delicate: the country is readying itself for the 2015 presidential elections, which are expected to be fiercely contested.